Have you ever dreamed of working abroad? Many countries offer special work visas for young people across the globe. Depending on your nationality and age, you may qualify of one of these work visas that could change your life forever.
One of the most popular countries in the world to work and play is Australia. I mean, who doesn’t want to live at the beach, drink gourmet coffee in Melbourne, and explore the Red Center? Working holiday visas to Australia are available for 35 nationalities and, the visas are easy to get for most.
This guide will contain everything you need to know about on how to get a working holiday visa to Australia. However, it is important to note that the visa program and eligibility can change anytime. For the most up-to-date information, please go to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.
How to Get a Working Holiday Visa to Australia
What is a Working Holiday Visa?
An Australian Working Holiday Visa is a visa that allows individuals of 35 countries to live, work, and travel in Australia for up to one year. Individuals must be between 18 and 31 years old to apply for the visa. The age limit is set to increase to 35 years old later this year. Once you receive your visa, you have up to a year to enter Australia. Your visa expires 12 months from your first entry date.
Do I qualify for a Working Holiday Visa?
Unfortunately, not everyone in the world qualifies for a Working Holiday Visa. Only individuals from 35 countries are currently eligible to apply and receive a working holiday visa in Australia. And, you must be between the ages of 18 and 31 years old at the time of application. (Note: The age is set to increase to 35 at some point this year)
Australia has two different Working Holiday Visas: Subclass 462 and Subclass 417. The visa subclass that you qualify for depends on your nationality.
The Subclass 417 visa is called the Working Holiday Visa, and you must hold a passport from the following countries:
- The Republic of Cyprus
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (including British National Overseas passport holders)
- The Republic of Ireland
- The Republic of Korea
- United Kingdom
The Subclass 462 visa is called the Work and Holiday Visa, and you must hold a passport from the following qualifying countries:
- China, People’s Republic of
- Singapore (*New as of August 1, 2017)
- Slovak Republic
- The United States of America
In addition to nationality, all individuals need to meet the following qualifying criteria:
- Be of good character with no criminal record (little things like a speeding or parking ticket is okay)
- Have never been rejected, deported or detained in any countries
- Meet the good health requirements (you may need a chest x-ray and an HIV, Hep B, or Hep C test if you have resided in a country considered high risk for more than three months)
- Will not be accompanied by dependent children at any time during your stay
- Have enough money to support yourself during your stay and to purchase a return ticket home (about $5000 AUD)
- Have not previously entered Australia on any Working Holiday Visa
- Meet the minimum education requirement (varies per country and only for Subclass 462)
- Have functional English (you may need to prove this through tests like the TOEFL or the IELTS)
- Some nationalities may need a letter of support from their government (this includes countries like Argentina, Chile, Poland, and Thailand. See the official website for all countries required to submit a letter of support)
Applying for your Working Holiday Visa depends on your nationality. Many nationalities can apply online through the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website. However, not all countries can apply online and must instead file a paper application. Check the Department of Immigration website to see if you can apply for your visa online.
If you are applying for a Subclass 417 Visa…
You can apply online through the Department of Immigration website. If you can’t apply online, you will need to fill out the paper form and file it either by mail or in person. The form will provide you more information on how to file it. Make sure you include all required documents and payment with the application. A document checklist can be found here.
If you are applying for a Subclass 462 Visa…
Only USA citizens can apply online. All other nationalities must lodge their visa applications at the Australian Immigration office in their own country or a nearby country. Please see the official website for which post you need to file your application. The paper application can be found here.
How much does the Australian working holiday visa cost?
Both Working Holiday Visas cost AUD$440. If you are filing a non-internet Subclass 417 visa, you will need to pay an additional AUD$80.
What happens once I file an application?
Not every applicant will be accepted for a Working Holiday Visa. Some countries have a limited number of visas available per year. It is best to apply early for your best chances of acceptance.
Once an application is officially filed with the Australian Immigration office, it usually takes between 14 to 21 days to process. But, for those who filed online may hear back as soon as the next day (I received my acceptance email within 12 hours). If additional documentation is required, like an official health check, the office will contact you for follow-up documentation. Make sure you have it ready to go.
Once you have received your official visa approval, you have up to one year from your visa approval date to enter Australia for the first time. The visa is an electronic visa so don’t expect to have a visa sticker placed in your passport or even receive a stamp when you arrive. You are allowed to enter and leave Australia as many times as you like, but your visa expiration date does not change.
You’ve probably heard of the mythical second-year visa. For many people, it is possible to live and work in Australia for up to two years. Unfortunately, only individuals with a Subclass 417 Working Holiday Visa may qualify for a second-year visa if they complete specified work in regional Australia while on their first Working Holiday Visa, also known as your “88 days.”
**NEW – As of November 19, 2016, individuals on a Subclass 462 now qualify for a second-year visa if they do 88 days of regional work in northern Australia in tourism and hospitality or agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Work must be completed in specified postcodes in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland above the Tropic of Capricorn. For specific postcodes, please see this document from the Work and Travel Company.
To successfully apply for a second Working Holiday Visa, you must have already completed 88 days (or 3 months) of specified work in regional Australia defined by the Department of Immigration. Specified work is defined as work in a specified field or industry in a designated regional area.
Current (as of August 2016) approved trades for specified work include:
- Plant and animal cultivation, including harvesting, packing of crops, and/or pruning and trimming
- Fishing and pearling
- Tree farming and felling
Important Note: Please see the Immigration website for official job descriptions and regional postcodes. Unfortunately, some bad employers will trick you into working for them for your second year. Before you accept any job offer, check with the Department of Immigration to ensure the work will count towards your 88 days.
Many individuals complete their 88 days by picking fruit or vegetables, working on a cattle or horse farm, or working in construction. You can complete all your days with one employer or with multiple employers.
WOOFING and volunteer jobs are no longer accepted as part of your 88 days. To qualify for your second visa, you need to complete 88 paid full days of work, which is between 7-8 hours. You will need to provide evidence that you satisfied the requirements when you apply for your second-year visa. Acceptable evidence includes copies of your pay slips, payment summaries, tax returns, or original Australian bank statement.
What kind of work can I do on my working holiday visa in Australia?
If you don’t want to pick fruit, you don’t have to! You can do pretty much anything in Australia as long as it is lawful. The only thing you need to remember is that you are only allowed to work for an employer up to 6 months, but you can work for as many or as few employers or jobs as you would like. Many people choose to work in the tourism, hospitality or agricultural industries, as the jobs are plentiful and geared towards casual workers and backpackers.
What do I need to work in Australia?
To work in Australia you need a tax file number (TFN). Unfortunately, you can’t apply for a tax number unless you have a physical mailing address in Australia, but a hostel address works, too. You can apply for your TFN online through the Australia Taxation Office.
It can take upwards of 30 days to get your TFN, but you’ll often get it much sooner. I got mine within a week. You can start to look for a job as soon as you get to Australia, even without your TFN. You have a month to provide your employer your TFN.
There are many ways to find a job in Australia from online job boards like Gumtree, Seek, or Backpacker Job Boards to the old fashion way of hitting the pavement handing out your CV to potential employers. Many backpackers find jobs through working hostels or asking around town. A job isn’t just going to be handed to you; you need to put in the effort and show any your potential employer that you’re serious about a job.
If you choose to work in the hospitality or food industry, you’ll need a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificate to serve alcohol. The RSA certification is a one-day course that is state-specific. Courses are easy to find and happen multiple times throughout the month. Some are even offered online. You can get an RSA for multiple states, but you will need a separate certification for Victoria and New South Wales. Ask around your hostel to find out when and where the next course may be. If you want to work in construction, you’ll need a White Card (CIC).
Club Training Australia offers a wide variety of online courses for hospitality.
What is the minimum wage in Australia?
The minimum wage in Australia is currently $18.29 per hour, but many Working Holiday Visa holders make much more depending on where they work and what they do. Jobs in the city often pay more because the cost of living is higher than rural areas. However, agricultural jobs often provide free room and board. Many people who work at outback pubs make around $21 an hour and even more on weekends and holidays.
Do I need health insurance while in Australia?
Health insurance is important. You never want to gamble with your health. You may be healthy now, but that could change in the blink of an eye.
Nationalities from the UK, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, and New Zealand qualify for Australia’s Medicare system for 12 months. People from Malta and Italy can obtain Medicare for up to 6 months. Everyone else does not qualify for Medicare. Technically, Australia doesn’t require you to have health insurance while you are living and working in the country, but it is highly recommended that you purchase your own plan, as healthcare costs can be expensive.
Personally, I use World Nomads.
Do I need an Australian bank account?
Yes and no. Officially you do not, but it makes your life a hell of a lot easier. Most employers pay you directly by bank transfer. It’s awesome!
It’s best to open an account within 28 days of arriving in Australia. Just visit any bank with your passport and relevant documentation. Unfortunately, many Australian banks charge a monthly account fee and pay little to no interest on your accounts. Australian companies also like to charge you a transaction fee if you use your credit or debit card to make online purchases. It sucks. Learn to make bank transfers to save money!
Your bank will provide you with an ATM card for your use. Just note that most banks charge an ATM fee so try to stick to your bank to save money. Popular banks include Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB, and ANZ.
I used Commonwealth Bank. They have ATMs and branches throughout Australia.
Do I Need to Pay Taxes?
Yes, just like your home country, you will be taxed on your earnings. As of January 1, 2017, all backpackers, despite their visa type, will be taxed at a rate of 15% on every dollar they make up to $37,000. Anything over $32,000 will be taxed at a marginal rate.
The Australian tax year runs from July 1st to June 30th and you are required to file a tax return at the end of each tax year if you worked. Your employer will provide you with a PAYG or final payslip that you will need to file your return. There is a common myth that you get all your tax money back when you leave Australia, but that is just a myth. Many backpackers choose to work with a tax agent to help them file their tax return.
Do I need to file taxes in my home country?
Depending on your nationality you may also be required to file taxes in your home country. For example, US citizens who live outside the United States for at least 330 full days may earn up to about $100,000 of foreign income without being taxed in the US on their worldwide income. Every country is different so consult with a tax professional in your home country.
What is Superannuation?
Superannuation is Australia’s pension system similar to the American social security system or a private retirement fund. If your monthly wage/salary is more than AUD$450 then your employer must contribute 9% of your wage to your superannuation account for you.
You can either set up your own superannuation account when you open your Australian bank account or your employer can set up an account for you. If you plan to work for multiple employers during your time in Australia, it may make more sense to open your own account because when you leave Australia you can take the money with you. The money is subject to income tax, but that money is yours to take.
For more information on how to claim your superannuation, visit the Australian Taxation Office.
What happens if I overstay my Working Holiday Visa?
Overstaying your Working Holiday Visa is a bad idea. If you do happen to overstay your Working Holiday Visa, then you could face heavy penalties. You may not be allowed to return to Australia for a specific period of time, generally between 3-5 years. If you are in Australia on a Subclass 417 visa then you may also lose your second-year visa opportunity.
If you do accidentally overstay your Working Holiday Visa then you should contact the Immigration Office within 28 days of your visa expiration date. Or better year, ASAP! Be honest. You may have a better chance of avoiding heavy penalties.